A coalition of public, private and nonprofit leaders is taking the values and opinions of area residents into account before crafting a new regional development strategy.

A Greater Madison Vision, which formed about six months ago, brings together business professionals, public officials and non-profit employees to help develop a plan for how the region should address an expected population growth in the coming decades. In doing so, the group recently asked local residents through a survey about how they view their community and its future.

“One of the reasons why we conducted this survey was to really see what brings us all together, what we universally would like our community to be in 10, 20, 30 years,” said Ald. Larry Palm, District 12, who is also one of four co-chairs of A Greater Madison Vision.

The group hired Heart and Mind Strategies, a market research company based in Virginia, to conduct a scientific survey in the Madison area. Throughout December, a group of 570 participants answered questions related to the quality of life, major challenges and the economic health of the region.

Dee Allsop, CEO of the company, said data from the 2010 census — such as gender, ethnicity and age — was used to select a statistically-representative pool of people from Dane County and seven surrounding counties: Sauk, Columbia, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock, Green and Iowa. About 80 percent of the participants came from the capital county.

The results show that a majority of survey takers have a positive view of the greater Madison region and believe the next generation will see an improved quality of life.

In addition, people believe higher education, K-12 education and local agriculture represent some of the better characteristics of the region, while income inequality, affordable housing, jobs, crime and access to healthcare were seen as some of the major challenges to overcome.

“These are values that are shared whether you’re Downtown or whether you’re out of town. That’s the things we need to focus on,” Palm said.

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The results of the survey will assist the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission when it creates a new regional development plan, which is required by law, to replace the nearly 20-year-old current plan, Palm said, who also chairs the planning commission.

Dane County is projected to gain about 118,000 residents by 2040, compared to the 2010 census population, according to a 2013 UW-Madison study.

Businesses, schools and individuals also will benefit from the survey, Palm said. Companies considering relocating here can understand their potential clients and workers, and schools can inform prospective teachers about the importance of education to the region, Palm said.

“There’s a lot of really key pieces that will take months to, sort of, put together in different bundles that will help different industries understand either their customers or employees,” Palm said.

A public option of the survey also was available and received 1,179 responses. A Spanish-language version was sent to some members of the Hispanic community, said Mayra Medrano, president of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County and a co-chair of A Greater Madison Vision.

“People, who perhaps English is not their primary or first language, may not feel comfortable sharing concerns because the language barrier. If we remove that, people will be more open and will feel more comfortable sharing,” Medrano said. “Having it in Spanish is very crucial, so we’ll have to continue that as we move forward with the actual plan.”

While the survey is one of the first steps, Palm said he has a “substantial” goal of including the input of one-tenth of all Dane County residents to help guide and determine the future growth and development of the region.

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